Today is the anniversary of “the shock wave heard round the world”. Kristallnacht, Crystal Night, or Night of Broken Glass, was a night of terror for Jews throughout Nazi Germany and Austria. It was a series of coordinated attacks carried out by the brown shirts — the paramilitary wing of the Nazi party — and civilians, against the Jews. The windows of every building, business, store, and synagogue were smashed, leaving the streets strewn with shards of shattered glass. It also left an entire people with shattered lives.The destruction took on a life of its own as homes, schools, and hospitals were destroyed and synagogues burned. Then to add insult to injury, the German authorities fined the Jews for the destruction.
This from Wikipedia:
Over 1,000 synagogues were burned (95 in Vienna alone) and over 7,000 Jewish businesses destroyed or damaged. Martin Gilbert writes that no event in the history of German Jews between 1933 and 1945 was so widely reported as it was happening, and the accounts from the foreign journalists working in Germany sent shock waves around the world. The Times wrote at the time: “No foreign propagandist bent upon blackening Germany before the world could outdo the tale of burnings and beatings, of blackguardly assaults on defenseless and innocent people, which disgraced that country yesterday.”
I cannot understand anti-Semitism. I’m reading that it is on the rise. But I have been to the Birmingham Holocaust Education Center. I walked the halls between walls of pictures I didn’t want to see. But I did, and I do, want to understand the horror and suffering the Jewish people went through so that I will never forget. So that I can tell my children and grandchildren never to forget.
The Holocaust is not just a huge black blot on the face of Germany, but upon all of mankind as a whole. Anti-Semitism did not originate with the Nazis. They just took it to a whole new level. It’s a level that I would like to see destroyed, piece by piece and voice by voice. Many in Germany today feel that black blot upon their nation and some have added some elbow grease to their feelings. Some Germans have banded together to polish the brass cobblestones imbedded in sidewalks all over Europe. The cobblestones commemorate the fact that here was the home of some dispossessed Jewish family, most of whom did not survive the Holocaust. Now, if people all over the world would be like those Germans, and take shared responsibility for that black blot, they could polish up their own hearts and attitudes and there would be no more anti-Semitism. But that would be in a perfect world. And that we do not have.
But I am seeing others with German ancestry posting that they weren’t even born then and not responsible for the actions of their forefathers. (I have German ancestry, so this is not just finger pointing). There are others who say their ancestors certainly did not engage in the attempted wholesale destruction of a race of people. All I can say is — yeah, right. And nobody from the American South owned any slaves or are not descended from plantation overseers. How soon is history pasted over, re-written, or conveniently forgotten. How soon the world forgets. How soon mankind’s thoughts turn inward rather than outward. And therein can lie the destruction of our own world.
I have heard people tell me that Jews are hard to like or warm up to. I’ve been around Jewish people most of my adult life and found them kind, courteous, witty, and brilliant. These people are some of the best conversationalists you’d ever hope to meet. My husband’s small hometown, where we lived for many years, boasted at least two major businesses that I can recall, that were Jewish-owned. Yes. They were people with lots of money. But they spent a lot of that money every December for Christmas gifts for the poor children of our town, even though the Christian holiday is not their own. And who knows how often they helped poor families throughout the year. They did not toot their own horns every time they gave from their generous hearts. And those were not isolated incidents.
I became close to a husband and wife who were on the library board, or friends of the library, with me. Can’t remember which one. We just shared a common love of literature. To me, different races are just people with different backgrounds. To me, this adds to the mystique surrounding different cultures and it colors my life, rounding out my education and pushing out the boundaries of my horizons. To me, the story of each race is a beautiful thing. I mean, where would our world be without the Jews. From that race has come great scientists, writers, dancers, singers, actors, artists, entrepreneurs. And humor. Some our best comedians are Jews.
I believe much of the problems between races could be solved with forgiveness. One of my favorite stories of all time is “The Hiding Place” by Corrie ten Boom. Born in the Netherlands in 1892, this Dutch lady, her sister, and her father, were arrested by the Nazis for hiding Jews. They went to their fate without giving up the hiding place. Their father died ten days after being arrested and Corrie and her sister Betsie were eventually taken to Ravensbruck, where her sister died at the hands of their guards. “The Hiding Place” is Corrie’s true story of God’s miraculous provision and comfort even through all the horrors.
After the war, Corrie took the story of her concentration camp experiences to the world through writing and speaking. She stressed forgiveness above all things. Her moment of truth, however, came at the end of one speaking engagement when a man in an overcoat and a brown hat made his way to the front. She recognized him immediately. He was one of the most cruel of the guards at Ravensbruck. But here he was, holding out his hand, confessing he had been a Nazi guard, and telling her he had become a Christian. Even though he knew that, through Christ’s atoning blood, his sins were forgiven, he wanted her forgiveness, too.
Corrie was stunned. All this time she had preached forgiveness, and now her heart was stone cold. In her mind she could only see the images of her sister at the hands of this man standing before her holding out his hand. “Fraulein,” he said, “will you forgive me?”
Corrie ten Boom: And I stood there — I whose sins had every day to be forgiven — and could not. Betsie had died in that place — could he erase her slow terrible death simply for the asking?
Corrie had to remind herself that Jesus had said, “If you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father in heaven forgive you your trespasses.”
In her most famous quote, Corrie ten Boom says — “Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart”. So then and there, she prayed. She told Jesus, “I will lift my hand, but you must supply the feeling.” She says as her hand touched his, it was like a current went through her, and a warmth took over her heart. “I forgive you brother,” she cried. And the spirit of Christ himself made it true.
I love the people of Israel. We have the same root religion. It is the Children of Israel through whom God showed the world that he is “one God”. Not several gods with the one generic name, as the world would have people believe today. So if it comes to choosing sides, I will always stand with Israel, with God’s Chosen People. In Genesis God told Abram that He would “bless those that bless you, and curse those that curse you”.
Psalm 122:6 tells us to “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem”. And, I’m sure, by extension, the peace of her people Israel. And the answer to that prayer starts in my own heart. It starts inside your heart, too.